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March 12, 2007

Bush Caves On Earmarks

The OMB was supposed to release a report noting who had requested each earmark and how much each cost the taxpayer. And, of course, who benefits from each.

Part of the campaign to inform the public how appropriatotrs spending your money, and paying off well-heeled contributors, in the darkness, without notice, and without your consent as voting citizens.

Caved.

When I heard last week from Hill sources that the White House congressional liason staff was pressuring OMB Director Rob Portman to not release all of the earmarks requested by Members of Congress to executive agencies under the FY2005 budget, I called the OMB press office.

When I asked for a copy of the earmark database and copies of all correspondence between OMB and executive branch officials and Members and Hill staff, I was promised a call-back from a senior OMB spokesman. Not surprisingly, that call never came.

Now this morning, word is circulating on the Hill that the Bush administration is going to release only a limited database of earmarks later today or maybe no database at all, but just aggregate or summary data.

Why? Fear of "offending" Congressional appropriators.

Perhaps it is Bush's calculation that appeasing the porkers will buy the goodwill necessary to stave off attempts at defunding the war.

But that's never worked before, and it's not going to work now.

Bush isn't a very good President when it's all said and done, is he? His early life, marked chiefly by taking the path of least resistance, is a fair preamble to his presidency.

Yes, the war is a good counter-example; but even his relatively steadfast position on that has been marked, often tragically, by half-steps and ill-advised compromises.


Tom Coburn, meanwhile, calls the Senate Democrats out on violating the new law of earmark transparency:


March 12, 2007

The Honorable Robert C. Byrd

Chairman

Senate Appropriations Committee

The Capitol, S-131

Washington, D.C. 20510


Dear Chairman Byrd:

As the fiscal year 2008 appropriations season begins, I write to seek your guidance on how the earmarking process will be reformed this year. While I am encouraged by your pledge to “place a moratorium on all earmarks until a reformed process is put in place,” I am very concerned that Senate Appropriations subcommittees are actively soliciting earmark requests even though a “reformed process” is not in place. As you know, even though the Senate unanimously passed strong earmark transparency requirements, no earmark reforms have yet been enacted. The American public demanded greater transparency and accountability in earmarking, yet nothing has been done to shed more light on this process.

Section 103 of S.1 requires the disclosure of several types of information related to earmarks, including the name of the Member requesting the earmark, the name and address of the intended recipient of the earmark, the purpose of the earmark, and a certification that the requesting Member and his or her spouse have no financial interest in the requested earmark. Although the Senate was unanimous in its support of these disclosure requirements, several earmark solicitation forms recently sent by Senate Appropriations subcommittees do not require the disclosure of many required items.

For example, the fiscal year 2008 earmark solicitation form sent by the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee does not require the disclosure of the name or address of the intended earmark recipient, nor does it require certification that the requesting Member has no financial interest in the requested earmark. The fiscal year 2008 earmark solicitation forms from the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee and the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee neglect to require the disclosure of these same items. Furthermore, as far as I can determine, the only requirement of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee is that earmark requests be placed by April 13, 2007.

I am extremely disappointed and troubled by the fact that Senate Appropriations Subcommittees are soliciting earmarks but not complying with the basic requirements of Section 103 of S.1. In the absence of final Senate enactment of meaningful earmark reform, the Senate Appropriations Committee has the ability to make earmark information public immediately. The Committee’s failure to make earmark information public would make a mockery of recently passed earmark reforms and would suggest to taxpayers that the Senate wants to continue to earmark funds in secret. In addition, pursuant to Section 103 of S.1, I believe that the Committee should immediately require all Members who request earmarks to certify in writing that they have no financial interest in the requested earmark. Following the imprisonment of a Member of Congress for selling earmarks in exchange for bribes, the American public needs to know that its elected officials are not using public office for private gain.

While I am pleased by your announced moratorium on earmarks and encouraged by your willingness to tackle such a difficult problem, I am worried that many wish to avoid any new transparency requirements. Please let me know how I can help you to reform the current process. Like you, I want to implement an “accountable, above-board, transparent process for funding decisions and put an end to the abuses that have harmed the credibility of Congress.” Your experience and institutional knowledge are invaluable, and I look forward to working with you to ensure that all taxpayer dollars are expended in a fully transparent and responsible manner.


Sincerely,


Tom Coburn, M.D.

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posted by Ace at 03:12 PM

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